Well, friends, I’m gobsmacked.
“ Would you tell the French that they are all wrong to use double negatives because if you analyze them logically they come out positive? “
Given that I understand French grammar, when I analyze them logically means they don’t come out positive.
I also understand English grammar and have some familiarity with the meanings of its words: “don’t doubt” doesn’t mean “doubt”. It doesn’t mean “don’t suspect”. I am of course aware that overnegative is present in English, so my analysis will be made keeping that in mind, and in so many cases it is easy to detect and not likely to lead to misunderstanding. “I ain’t got no money” is always going to mean “I’ve got no money”. This is not one of those cases. partly because it is a relatively complex clause.
This is a case where there is a clear indication from the context of the whole sentence, and from the broader context of the announcement, that overnegation must be in play: we already know what he means. Absent that, though, the reader would not have a means of determining whether whether the “not” is intended: after all, overnegation is _common_, not universal. you can’t just up and _assume_ it is in use, and this is quite a crypto-overnegation, as Dave has indicated. If I had only been given the second half of the sentence (starting at I do not doubt), I would have no way of determining whether Sununu was using normal, formal grammar, which would mean he doesn’t accept that it was based on policy, or overnegation, in which case it means the opposite.
The ban on multiple negation started, like so many grammatical rules, with those eighteenth-century grammarians.
I’ve no interest in banning multiple negation but there are certainly cases in which its use can lead to confusion and this is one.
This doesn’t really make sense: if the speaker intended meaning X and meaning X is what the hearer/reader gets unless they perform an unlikely logical analysis, then X is the meaning.
“Unlikely logical analysis”? That Sununu is certain it was based on anything but policy is the straightforward, obvious meaning that doesn’t come from any unlikely analysis, but from ordinary interpretation of language that we all do every day of the year. For me, to interpret it to have the opposite meaning is a leap that could only be made by considering the broader context. Probably no point in arguing about this point: it’s clear enough that you and I have different parsing habits.